The ninth Derby Folk Festival has expanded to four venues across the city featuring some of the best traditional and contemporary folk from the UK and beyond.

After a short introduction from festival organisers Bob Rushton, Mick Peat and festival patron John Tams, we start Friday evening in the City marque.

The Liberty to Choose are a collaborative project interpreting traditional songs from the New Penguin Book of English Folks Songs with a modern twist or two. The line up tonight consists of Bran Peters, Jackie Oates, James Findlay and another festival patron Lucy Ward (her 3rd album 'I Dreamt I Was A Bird' was released today). Good versions of 'The Mole catcher,' 'The Spotted Cow' , James Findlay does a great 'Barbara Allen'. The highlight for me is an unaccompanied ' The Trees They Do Grow High' which features Lucy and Jackie two of the best female voices in British folk, spine-tingling stuff.

Next is Flats & Sharps , who are a young bluegrass five piece. Whilst they play the music from the Appalachian mountains, they originate from slightly to the East in ... Penzance. They're a great fun band with the traditional set up of banjos, acoustic guitar, fiddle and upright bass. We get to here about their “Gig Granny” as they call her who suppliers them with sound advice and illegal substances (take this with a large pinch of salt). Highlight 'You Can Have Her, I Don't Want Her' is a favourite at wedding party bookings apparently.

Headliners on Friday night are Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, who play a great set of songs from their four albums. It's only when you see them live you truly appreciate how well Kathryn's warm, precise vocals and Sean's elegantly strummed guitar compliment each other 'The Robber Bridegroom', 'Child Owlet' and 'The Banishing Book' being great examples. Kathryn goes solo with piano for the devastating ' The Ballad of Andy Jacobs' which describes the difficult choices people had to make during the miner's strike in order to survive. The most heart-breaking moment is on '52 Hertz' written about a whale who's singing his mating call at 52 Hertz which is lower than other whales can hear so he swims the oceans alone ' 52 hertz, I'm singing a love song that no-one can hear' . All together now, aaaah .

After a rugby-ball shaped disappointing Saturday night I return on Sunday, perhaps unwisely, to see a Welsh band Calan (who only mention the rugby result about half a dozen times but it's all good natured). Today's line up is a four piece of two fiddles, acoustic guitar and accordion missing the usual Welsh harp, who blast through high speed instrumentals to wake the early Sunday morning crowd up. Bethan Rhiannon Williams-Jones provides beautiful sweet vocals on the slower tracks along with some impressive percussive step dancing . Considering they left Wales in the middle of the night to arrive for today's openers slot they're very chatty as we learn about being deported from the States (nothing more sinister than a paperwork issue) and a broke folk musician's tradition of gifting songs as wedding presents such 'Cariad Caerlyr (Leicester Love)' from the new album 'Dinas'. The twin fiddle blast and shouty chorus of 'Tale of Two Dragons' is the highlight of their energetic set.

Next is an unexpected delight The Dovetail Trio in the Derby Guildhall. Another young (this seems to be a trend) trio of Jamie Roberts (acoustic guitar and bv) Rosie Hood (lead vocals) and Matt Quinn (concertina and bv) who present a beautiful set of trad songs split between unaccompanied and full band tracks. 'Poison In A Glass Of Wine' as Rosie said contains a plot spoiler in the title, and her enchantingly, sweet vocals on 'Frozen Girl' about a girl travelling in the freezing winter causes something hard and jagged in the throat and brings a tear to the eye. They have just released their first album 'Wing of Evening' which is well worth checking out .
Back to the City Marque for John Spiers , squeeze box player extraordinaire, member of soon to depart Bellowhead and a duo with Jon Boden for a set of beautifully played squeeze box instrumentals and up-tempo dance tunes which cause the first outbreak of enthusiastic dancing in the aisles including a mother and infant combination which rightly gets a shout out from John.

The good people of Furthest From The Sea , a local arts organisation have been hosting a Festival Fringe stage all day in The Bell Hotel. Isembard's Wheel, describe themselves as “Folk. And then some” play a lively set with a The Levellers, Frank Turner feel. Felix M-B is a local talent with a down to earth delivery in a Nu-Folk style similar to Nick Drake or Laura Marling.

Melrose Quartet consists of Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, Jess and Richard Arrowsmith, the band are named after the street they all live on in Sheffield, the combination of their four voices is very effectively used on the unaccompanied tunes such as 'Santa Georgia' written about the multi-cultural part of Sheffield they live in and 'Bampton Fair'. Their virtuoso twin fiddle, squeeze box and guitar playing illuminate the full band parts of the set. We hear another two gifted songs on 'Wedding Bells' which Jess wrote for a friend's wedding and 'Margaret Fagan's 50th Birthday Polka' . We get a glimpse into the Kerr/Fagan household when after a lovely version 'John Ball' which celebrates the life of the English radical, Nancy reveals she often sings this to their children as a lullaby ,except when James (who is Australian, but doesn't mention the rugby result) is in charge of bedtime when it's more likely to be AC/DC.

This is only a small part of the great musical events which occur in the city during the Derby Folk Festival, and we're already looking forward to a celebration for DFF10 next year.

Alisdair Whyte